AFTER managing to stay under the radar while being incarcerated for one of the biggest scandals in Philippine politics, pork barrel or Philippine Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles is back under intense media scrutiny.
Napoles, who is currently detained at the Correctional Institute for Women in Mandaluyong City since 2015, was recently acquitted by the Court of Appeals in the illegal detention case filed by whistleblower Benhur Luy.
However, the PDAF queen will remain behind bars while still facing the string of non-bailable plunder and graft cases charged against her by the Sandiganbayan.
In its decision to reverse the 2015 ruling which sentenced Napoles to life imprisonment, the Court of Appeals’ 12 Division said that the evidence presented by the prosecutors were “grossly insufficient to sustain a conviction” and falls below the required proof of crime beyond reasonable doubt.
After her recent legal victory, Napoles is now being considered as a state witness in the government’s planned reinvestigation of the multibillion-peso controversy. Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II revealed that his team is already planning to meet with Napoles to review the PDAF cases.
“She should have knowledge of everything because it all came from her. If what she would say will be coupled with documents, then there is no reason why she should not be credible,” Aguirre explained.
If she becomes a state witness, Napoles is not only guaranteed government protection, she would also be free from all the charges that had been filed against her.
Malacañang assured that there has been no policy shift with regard to the PDAF scam and that Napoles will not be used to persecute the current administration’s opponents.
“The Duterte administration has never, will never and can never enter into sweetheart deals. It’s very strict on the observance of the rule of law and following constitutional due process,” presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo told reporters.
As one can recall, at the heat of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee’s investigation into the alleged misuse of public funds in November 2013, Napoles had the perfect opportunity to implicate more personalities into the PDAF scam when the Senate threw her to the deep end, with hard-hitting questions to reveal the truth on her alleged collusion with lawmakers and other government officials to funnel huge sums from the PDAF.
Instead of spilling the beans, Napoles stuck to her legal strategy by continuously invoking her right against self-incrimination and remaining tight-lipped throughout the grilling session.
Now that she is given a second chance, will truth afford Napoles the constitutional protections she wants? Will she be a valuable asset in revealing more truth—and justice at the end of this pork barrel saga?
From here on out, the Philippine government and its members stand in a parlous position. Every riveting detail of the pork barrel saga will further bring consciousness to the nation that has been subjected to this hullabaloo. (AJPress)